H&E North catalogues the latest hotel openings, renovations and takeovers emerging against all the odds.

Travelodge Kendal.

Travelodge: Kendal and Workington

Travelodge was plunged into crisis after having to shut all 564 of its UK hotels when the lockdown began, with the majority of its 10,000 staff placed on furlough. The operator withheld rent payments, sparking a stand-off that culminated in an insolvency process, putting it at risk of its property owners deserting for other brands or their own rival operator, Goodnight. However, property investment trust Secure Income announced in October it would not exercise a break clause in its contract, marking a victory for the budget hotel chain.

Things continue to look up for Travelodge as restrictions relax, having since opened two further hotels, a 78-bedroom property in Workington and 43-room site in Kendal, capitalising on the rise of domestic travel to popular UK tourist destinations as holiday makers embrace the ‘staycation’. The hotel giant now has nine Cumbrian hotels under its belt.

Premier Inn: Blackpool, Peterborough, Scarborough, Manchester and Chester

Premier Inn is set to open no less than five hotels across the north alone in November and December 2020 including Blackpool (North Pier), Peterborough, Scarborough (North Bay), Manchester (Princess Street) and Chester (Grosvenor Centre). The raft of new openings come as owner Whitbread saw UK sales fall 78% in the period March to August, leading it announce lay-offs of up to 6,000 staff, totalling 18% of its total workforce in a bid to cut costs.

Tamara Strauss, who joined Premier Inn as global brand marketing director at the start of 2020, said: “We are having to work with uncertainty looking forward, which means we have to take a few gambles along the way, but they are calculated gambles.” The September trading update proved things were picking up, reporting that 98% of its hotels had reopened and that trading was ahead of the market, with strong demand in tourist locations.

Attempting to further raise investors’ spirits, chief executive Alison Brittain has pointed to “enhanced structural opportunities in the medium to long term”, in the form of acquiring cut-price properties in Germany in the hope of replicating the Premier Inn model in Europe.

Hilton Garden Inn Snowdonia.

Hilton Hotels & Resorts: Stoke-on-Trent

The Hampton by Hilton hotel which opened back in 2018 on Blackpool South Shore with 130 bedrooms is expanding after planning permission was green-lit to add another 74 bedrooms as a result of growing demand. The extended hotel is expected to be finished by the end of 2021 and will see a bigger kitchen area and new meeting spaces. The hotel will be able to give further support to the new Blackpool Conference Centre and hotly anticipated Winter Gardens exhibition centre.

In North Wales, a new 106-bedroom Hilton Garden Inn is set to open its doors in the Adventure Parc Snowdonia activities resort in March 2021. Hilton Garden Inn Snowdonia will include a restaurant and bar with a guest-exclusive fitness centre, as well as corporate conference and meeting facilities for up to 300 delegates.

In Scotland, Hilton Glasgow will see the largest renovation the hotel has undergone since its opening in 1992, set to include all 319 guest rooms, with the addition of new function and leisure spaces. The Ballroom, the largest of the hotel’s function spaces at 944sqm, will undergo a complete redesign on a grand scale to help re-establish the hotel as a leading function destination in the region.

The latest addition to its growing portfolio, the £20 million Hilton Garden Inn Stoke-on-Trent owned by Genr8 Developments and operated by RBH, recently opened its doors as part of the Smithfield development. The hotel provides 140 bedrooms, meeting and conference facilities and full-service restaurant, The Garden Inn Bar & Grill led by head chef, Juan Jose Valdivieso. The recruitment process for the initial team of 30 saw more than 3,500 applications submitted, reflecting rising levels of unemployment across the hospitality sector.

New Radisson Individuals

Radisson Hotel Group recently established its new conversion brand, Radisson Individuals, aimed at encouraging independent hotels to join the group’s platform, to “benefit from international exposure, with the freedom to maintain their own unique style and identity.”

The brand has launched with 25 new signings across EMEA “with additional properties in advanced discussions in Italy, Germany, Russia and beyond.” In the north, the forthcoming River House Hotel in Inverness will join the brand in 2021, followed by Radisson Blu Hotel Sheffield when it opens its doors in 2023.

Holiday Inn Hotels & Resorts: Blackpool

InterContinental Hotels Group, owner of Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza brands reported a slow recovery as coronavirus infections rose, despite a summer boost from domestic breaks, having already announced 650 job cuts as part of a $150 million cost reduction plan. The FTSE-100 group saw comparable revenue per available room fall by 53.4% worldwide in the three months to September – an upturn on the 75% dip experienced in the second quarter as lockdowns came into force across the globe.

However, management appears to have its eye on the long-term opportunity as it continues to expand its 5,900 global portfolio. In the north, the site of the brutalist Wilko building near Blackpool North Station will make way for a new 144-room Holiday Inn hotel in summer 2022, which will also include Marco Pierre White’s New York Italian restaurant.

The new four-star hotel is part of a wider regeneration project including retail units and improved public transport links including a new tram terminal, all within the new Talbot Gateway business district, which will receive a total investment of £34.6 million.

Taras Properties: Newcastle

Taras Properties, owned by billionaire brothers David and Simon Reuben, has worked up development proposals with Newcastle City Council to convert Grade-II listed fire station buildings on Pilgrim Street into a new 60-bedroom hotel and 3,850sq ft restaurant and bar.

The development forms part of a wider programme of regeneration on Pilgrim Street creating a raft of retail, leisure and office schemes. Matt Verlander, planning and development director at Avison Young said: “This is an exciting project to bring forward a high-quality hotel and dining offer which isn’t currently provided within Newcastle city centre.

Gilpin Spa Suite Exterior

Gilpin Hotel & Lake House: Windermere

The Lake District has no shortage of luxury hotels, but the family-run Gilpin spa lodge in the Cumbrian hills regularly tops the UK ‘best of’ lists. Earlier this autumn, the AA Five-Star outfit opened the first of three additional spa lodges purported to be 25% larger than the original.

All come with an in-room sauna, steam room and outdoor whirlpool inside a private walled garden, sidestepping COVID-19 regulations to provide a socially-distanced spa ‘staycation’.

Buxton Crescent Hotel.

Buxton Crescent Hotel: Peak District

The reincarnation of one of the country’s most architecturally significant Georgian buildings, Buxton Crescent Hotel takes the spa town back to its source. Designed by John Carr of York, the 18th century building is dripping with chandeliers, painted ceilings, stained glass windows and fluted columns. In Roman times, a settlement was built around the spring which wells beneath the hotel and continues to send up over one million litres of spa water a day.

The Five-star hotel offers luxury spa treatments, lifestyle programmes and hydrotherapy across four pools – a thermal pool, a refurbished Victorian pool, a relaxation pool in a dark room and an indoor-outdoor rooftop pool. The 81-room property will be managed by Ensana, a health spa brand from Europe, mark its first foray into the UK hospitality market.

The Falcon: Northamptonshire

With a spring opening delayed until autumn for obvious reasons, the 16th century coach house has been thoughtfully restored into the rural Northamptonshire countryside as a hotel, restaurant and retreat “for those in need of rest and renewal.” Situated within the 11,000-acre Castle Ashby estate, the ancestral home of the 7th Marquess of Northampton, the venture is helmed by Lord and Lady Northampton.

Under the direction of HEAD CHEF Mark Lawton, its Eyas Restaurant is supplied with produce grown, harvested and reared within the estate, while her ladyship’s professional experience as a psychotherapist, counsellor and yoga teacher means guests of the 22-bedroom country retreat can enjoy yoga, foraging, guided walks and wild swimming.

Sands Venue Hotel and Spa: Blackpool

Blackpool Seafront’s first five-star resort, the Sands Venue Hotel and Spa, is now in the throes of construction on Blackpool Promenade. Multimillionaire businessman Peter Swann, the chairman of Scunthorpe United FC is the man behind the ambitious resort, which will be run by the same management company which oversees the Lowry Hotel.

Inspired by 1930s art deco glamour, the site will create a 96-room hotel complete with cavernous penthouse room measuring 200 sqm, as well as a spa, restaurant, bistro, hairdressers, nail salon and hotel shop. The building will also play home to the new Blackpool Museum, scheduled to open in June 2021.

Alan Cavill, DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATION AND REGENERATION at Blackpool Council, said of the plans: “Although the conference trade is clearly stymied by coronavirus, it will return one day, and the resort will be ready.”